The Orange Nude by Roberta Malkin

A few days ago I received an email from a guy I didn’t know named Bob:

I think this was done by your mother.
Might want to pick it up. Very good work and it caught my eye.

He included a link to a Goodwill auction where I immediately recognized one of my mother’s early drawings, at least 30 years old judging by the style. It was being auctioned out of Portland, Oregon – odd given that my mother, Roberta Malkin, has lived and worked her entire life in Chicago.

I thanked Bob for the tip. He replied:

I thought from the signature it may have been a Peter Z. Malkin, a pretty interesting fellow who caught Adolf Eichmann. His cover was that he was an artist. From the thumbnail I could tell it was very good work. If you really want it bid high. It may be sniped at the very end.

The Orange Nude Close-up by Roberta Malkin

Bob was right. I wanted to recover it. There were only a few minutes left in the auction and just a single bid at $25, so I put in a bid for $100.

With just 7 seconds remaining I was outbid at $101. Disappointed, I told Bob what happened. He responded:

I told you someone would come over the top. Contact Portland Goodwill and keep an eye out for it on Ebay. The winner thinks they bought a Peter Z. Malkin. Tell your mother for me that she does fine work, her use of color and the fine detail in abstract is very unique and caught my attention and obviously of others. If you do not get it then at least feel good with that issue.

Out of curiosity I asked Bob if he was an art dealer or collector:

Just a hustler, tryin to make a buck. My son and I chase art. I am in NY and he is in Virginia. Too many people now know about the Goodwill site. You would not believe some of the artwork that shows up there. A lot of fakes. Goodwill gives their honest opinion but they make mistakes, mostly in identifying the artist. They are good on the condition which helps. The upside is that they are not setting a value and letting the market decide. No one is stealing fine art from them any longer like in the past. Good luck.

The Orange Nude by Roberta Malkin, Signature

At that point I called my mother and told her what occurred:

I then contacted Goodwill at Bob’s suggestion:

Dear Goodwill, I was informed by a shopgoodwill user that a drawing by mother from the 1970s was being auctioned on the site. I signed up and made a bid significantly higher than the last. I was outbid by $1 at the last moment. I know that this person won the auction fair and square. I just ask if there is a way for me to contact the winner directly so that I may offer to purchase it from him.

Goodwill responded:

Thank you for your email. We apologize, however, we would not be able to share the other buyers personal information. We can certainly pass your information on to them, however. Please let us know the exact message you would like to send them, as well as your contact information, and we will pass it on to the other buyer. Thank you for your support of our mission.

So I asked Goodwill to pass this message on:

Dear Winner of the Orange Nude by R. Malkin (auction 6007440),
My name is Elliott Malkin. I am the son of the artist who made that drawing and I’m interested in purchasing it from you for a reasonable sum. I see that you paid $101. Please contact me at [elliott at dziga dot com] and maybe we can work something out. Best, Elliott

One week later…

Dear Mr. Elliott Malkin,
I’ve been waiting for the shipment of your mom’s drawing to arrive. That’s why I haven’t responsed to your inquiry earlier. Now that it’s arrived, my first impression of it from the shopgoodwill site was right. The drawing is impressive. Compared to her drawings that you’ve posted on Flickr, no doubt, it’s one of her best works. I like it very much and usually would keep it until a more favorable market condition to sell. Since you’ve made an effort to contact me, I would like to give you another chance to repurchase the drawing.

I took a few more days to think about it. Then I wrote back:

West, Thanks for getting in touch. After some thought, I’ve decided not to make you an offer. I realized that I’m more interested in fostering a market for my mother’s work than owning any particular piece. To that end, I’ve made a blog post chronicling the recent history of the drawing:, and I encourage you to flip it on eBay. I will gladly support the auction in any way I can and continue to publicize my mother’s work in a broader sense. Hopefully you will make a handsome profit. Let me know how it goes.

And that’s where I left it. Maybe you’ll find it on eBay some time.

Photos courtesy of Goodwill auctions.
  • November 17, 2010 3:10 am (Edit)

    I wonder if Bob and West are the same person.

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